This should have happened a year ago. The Detroit Pistons, not too far removed from the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals, earned a trip to the Lottery podium for the first time in a long time — and now talk around the franchise is all about renovating and rebuilding.
Rodney Stuckey has a critical season in front of him if he wants to be the go-to guy. Jonas Jerebko was one of the biggest positive surprises of ’09 rookie class. The Pistons have a Top-10 draft pick in their pocket to get another future foundation piece, and ’09 free agent signees Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva will be given every chance to be VIP’s in their second year under second-year coach John Kuester.
But what about the old guard? In something of an identity-crisis year for Detroit, they tried to successfully initiate the young guys while keeping a lot of the old guys around: Ben Wallace, Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince, all alumni of the 2004 NBA championship team. Not that any of the veterans caused complaints — Rip led the team with 18.1 points per game, Wallace was the leading rebounder at 8.7 boards a night, and Prince was the best three-point shooter, hitting 37 percent of his treys — but now it’s time to truly begin a new era in Motown. Wallace is a free agent who may be looking to go to a contender, and while Prince and Hamilton were involved in trade rumors last summer, it’s more likely one of them gets dealt this time. From the Detroit Free-Press:
Since the team has too many players at small forward and shooting guard, Prince or Hamilton is the most likely to go so the team can move forward.
At guard, the Pistons have Ben Gordon, Hamilton, Will Bynum and Rodney Stuckey, plus a possible experiment with Austin Daye at shooting guard. At small forward, the Pistons have Prince, Jonas Jerebko (who could develop into a power forward), Daye and DaJuan Summers.
Prince, in the final year of his deal that is set to pay him $11 million, might be the wiser option to keep.
“Tayshaun is more versatile and he’s younger,” said Bill Duffy, Prince’s agent. “He’s the perfect complementary player, and I don’t think there’s any question that Rip is the kind of player who is in need of the ball. He’s a great scorer, but obviously not as versatile as Tayshaun. Tayshaun can blend better with the new players that they have and the younger crew.”
Despite the obvious bias, Duffy is right. Tayshaun (30) is two years younger than Rip (32) and gives the Pistons more in terms of defense and his ability to play multiple positions. And Prince doesn’t have to be The Man when he’s on the floor, which is vital if the Pistons are trying to experiment and introduce new primary scorers.
Then again, Rip could be the one to stick around for a few reasons. Primarily, he’s going to be harder to trade, considering his contract has three years and $37.8 million left on it, while Prince’s deal is expiring. And while Rip is technically older, there’s a good chance Prince is aging in dog years and will be less durable down the road. Prince has a ton of mileage on him after going like seven seasons without missing a game, while Rip is one of the best-conditioned athletes in the NBA.
If you’re running the Pistons, who would you look to trade?